What is Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome?

Zollinger-Ellison syndrome

is a disorder of the stomach that can lead to the formation of islet tumours in the pancreas and peptic ulcers in the duodenum. The presence of the tumours can cause the stomach to secrete more than required gastrin hormone that in turn produces excess hydrochloric acid.

Causes of Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome (ZES):

The presence of


tumour (either in the pancreas or duodenum) leads to the secretion of excess gastrin which in turn produces the excess acid. It is this excess acid that causes peptic ulcers in about 95 percent of people suffering from the syndrome. These tumours which can also be cancerous can spread to other body parts as well.

Around 25 percent people who suffer from excess gastrin problems actually inherit them genetically. The name of this genetic disorder is multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1.

Who is Vulnerable?:

Precisely, anyone can suffer from ZES. But, the following people are vulnerable to the syndrome-

  • men between the ages 30 and 50
  • people who inherit the genetic disorder endocrine neoplasia type 1 have a 20-61 percent chance of developing the syndrome
  • children with parents possessing the genetic disorder type are also at a risk of inheriting the gene, leaving them vulnerable to the syndrome

Symptoms of ZES:

The following are the symptoms of the syndrome-

  • stomach ache or epigastric pain
  • weight loss
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • nausea
  • gastroesophagul reflux
  • black and tarry feces or melena


In case the above mentioned symptoms continue to persist, despite the use of medications, a doctor may choose to-

  • measure gastrin levels that have been elevated using secretin stimulation test
  • measure the same when the person is fasting
  • the secretion of the acid and pH levels will also be measured
  • Imaging techniques like MRI, CAT scan, angiography and ultrasonography to locate the source where the secretion of gastrin has increased.


The following drugs can be used to reduce the secretion of excess gastrin hormone-

  • Prevacid
  • Nexium
  • Protonix
  • Prilosec

Once the acid secretion is reduced, peptic ulcers would also heal by themselves in time.

Surgery is the only option for removing gastrinomas and to cure ZES. If the cancerous cells spread into other body parts like bones and liver, then chemotherapy is an option.

The life-period of those with

Zollinger-Ellison syndrome

depends on the nature of the tumors. In most cases, the tumors grow slowly while in a few, the tumours could become cancerous.

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